Emelianenko falls in Strikeforce event

BY foxsports • February 12, 2011

Fedor Emelianenko had been considered the best heavyweight fighter for the better part of a decade, an aura of invincibility growing around him.

Those days might be over, along with his sterling career.

Brazilian jiujitsu star Antonio Silva beat the mixed martial arts icon when the ringside doctor refused to allow him to continue, Emelianenko's right eye swollen shut from numerous blows after a wild second round Saturday night in the Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix.

In the co-main event, Sergei Kharitonov stunned a crowd of more than 11,000 at the Izod Center by knocking out Andrei Arlovski. It was the fourth straight loss for the former UFC champion, whose career also may be barreling toward a disappointing conclusion.

Kharitonov advanced to face Brett Rogers or Josh Barnett, who meet in the second batch of quarterfinals on April 9. Silva will face Fabricio Werdum or Alistair Overeem.

"Something went wrong from the very beginning and I didn't manage to readjust myself," Emelianenko said through a translator while still in the ring. "Maybe it's time to leave."

The crowd responded by pleading for the 34-year-old Emelianenko to continue, despite his second straight loss after nearly a decade of perfection.

"Yes, maybe it's the last time. Maybe it's high time," Emelianenko said. "I spent a great, beautiful, long sport life. Maybe it's God's will."

The near-sellout crowd arrived long before the main event, despite bus trouble for hundreds of fans trying to get to the aging Izod Center from Manhattan. They were vocal throughout the night, too, especially when the eight fighters participating in the Grand Prix were introduced.

Emelianenko received the largest ovation, in part because of the substantial Russian population in the New York City area, and in part because he's been nearly unbeatable. His almost mythic stature has made him one of MMA's most popular stars.

Among those in the crowd were UFC star Georges St. Pierre, several members of the New York Giants, and Melvina Lathan, the chairwoman of the New York State Athletic Commission. Lathan is a major supporter of mixed martial arts, even though she's been unsuccessful in helping proponents of the sport convince the state legislature to sanction it in New York.

It was a big night for Strikeforce, which has slowly grown in the shadow of the more popular and more established UFC. The promotion has arguably the better heavyweight division, headlined by Emelianenko, and that's why officials decided to stage the ambitious eight-man tournament.

"I'm very happy to participate in this tournament," Emelianenko said before his fight, "and I'm sure their popularity will grow immensely."

Emelianenko (31-3-1) won the first round by staying on his feet, landing the better blows and refusing to follow the ground specialist to the mat. He seemed to have learned his lesson from his loss last summer, when Werdum took him down and forced him to submit.

Silva (16-2) finally got the Russian star to the ground early in the second round, and Emelianenko spent nearly four minutes trying to get back up. Meanwhile, the massive Brazilian managed to land blow after blow, most of them cutting right through Emelianenko's defense.

While he never came close to giving up, the punishment became obvious.

There was blood flowing out of Emelianenko's nose and the right side of his face had turned a hideous shade of purple. He returned to his corner after the second round and, when the bell rang, his trainers put in his mouthguard and it looked as if Emelianenko wanted to continue.

The ringside physician and state athletic commission staff refused to let that happen.

"All the people were saying 'Fedor, Fedor, Fedor,"' Silva said. "I showed the world now."

Kharitonov (18-4) came into the tournament something of a dark horse, having fought only once each year since a transcendent knockout victory over Overeem in 2007.

He must have spent all that extra time training, because he sure didn't look rusty.

Kharitonov and Arlovski circled most of the first round, but just when the crowd began chanting "Andrei! Andrei!" midway through it, Kharitonov landed a looping right hand.

Arlovski (15-9) backed up against a corner of the cage but couldn't do much to defend himself, despite being the more accomplished boxer. Kharitonov landed a flush uppercut and, moments later, delivered another uppercut that sent his opponent to the canvas.

After following him down and delivering several more blows, the referee finally pulled him off - even though Arlovski looked as if he'd been knocked out several seconds earlier.

"I was nervous because Andrei is a very, very tough fighter," Kharitonov said through a translator. "I hope we become friends after the fight because he's a very great fighter."

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